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'Who's in charge?': St. Louis County business owners confused on which mask guidance to follow after council vote

5 On Your Side spoke to the United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to help guide you best

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County leaders are at odds over a new mask mandate leaving businesses in the middle and leading to mask confusion among residents.

Tuesday night, the St. Louis County council voted to terminate a mask mandate that was issued on Monday.

Most of the council members said County Executive Dr. Sam Page did not consult the council before putting the order in place.

Then Wednesday morning, Dr. Page says it is still in effect.

"There is currently a lawsuit challenging that mandate, until that’s resolved, masks are required in all indoor public spaces,” Dr. Page said.

This paired with new guidance from the CDC has many people confused.

St. Louis County business owners are trying to cycle through the options.

Many are getting pulled into different directions, like David Busker, owner of Cyclebar in Chesterfield.

Credit: KSDK

"We've been getting a lot of questions about it," Busker said. "The county is saying two different things, the city is saying something else, the state is saying something else, and then the CDC comes out with new guidance. We do wonder who's in charge, right? Who are we really governed by at that point."

Busker isn't just feeling the effects from the county going at it in a tug-of-war, but so is his Chesterfield business. 

Chesterfield's mayor said no law enforcement agency can enforce a county health department order. 

So Busker is feeling pulls from every level. 

Credit: KSDK

Parkmoor owner Frank Romano mirrors the same feeling of confusion.

"So, the county council, you have the county executive saying another thing, and our team here is like 'Should we wear a mask or not wear a mask?'" Romano says.

Both said they're focusing on what's best for their customers.

"We can't control all those variables, we're trying to operate a business so we're going to do what we think is in the spirit of compliance," Busker said.

"We look at the county health department," Romano said, "they issue our health license. So we went to them and they said wear a mask, so we are wearing masks."

5 On Your Side spoke to the United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to help guide you best.

If we look strictly at the science, we're dealing with a new variant that is more aggressive.

As of Friday, Florida, Missouri, and Texas are seeing about 40% of the country's new COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Murthy said that the Delta variant viral load is up to 1,000-times greater than the original version of the virus.

With new data in the mix, it caused the CDC to pivot. 

"These breakthrough infections do, in fact, have the potential to transmit with Delta, which means that if you're fully vaccinated, you have a breakthrough infection, you could potentially pass that infection on someone else," Dr. Murthy said.  

That's why the CDC is saying mask up inside, even if you're vaccinated. Dr. Murthy agreed.

Dr. Murthy said vaccines are our biggest tool to get out of this pandemic and masks will only help.

"Wearing masks today will help to reduce the spread in the short term and that will ultimately save lives," Dr. Murthy said. 

There does seem to be one theme that's common among the opposing groups and that's more people need to get vaccinated.

Tuesday night, at the end of the county council meeting, the council members who voted against the mask mandate, passed a resolution calling on all county residents to get vaccinated.

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